How Do You Decide Who You Can Trust?Jan 31, 2023
This world seems to be getting crazier all the time. The news is filled with stories about the Idaho murders, the killing of Tyre Nichols at the hands of police, and whatever the latest mass shooting is. Even with all of that and more, we don’t need to live in a state of fear, but in a state of awareness.
That’s one reason that I tell true crime stories on my podcast, The Unlovely Truth. The intersection of faith and true crime seemed strange to me at first. Then it occurred to me that probably the most famous of Jesus’s parables is a true crime story!
It’s the story of The Good Samaritan. Traveling can be stressful, right? I guess it depends on where you are traveling, but most of us don’t get beaten, robbed, and left for dead when we’re on the road. That’s three felonies right there! The poor traveler in Jesus' story was though, and to add insult to actual injury a priest and a Levite both walked right past him! Didn’t even give him the standard, “We’ll be praying for you bro.” They decided that his problems weren’t their problems.
But then, along came our Good Samaritan. Someone despised by the people who would’ve been listening to Jesus’s story. The Samaritan stopped, applied ancient first aid to the injured traveler, and took him to a safe shelter. He even paid someone to take care of him and promised to pay more on his way back if necessary. Then Jesus wrapped up his story by asking the religious expert who he thought had been a neighbor to the injured man. The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Who remembers what Jesus said next? That’s right, “Go and do likewise.” So we got our marching orders right there. We are to “go” and help people in need, and sometimes that may be in somewhat sketchy situations. We can learn ways to keep ourselves safer even when we are diving in to help others. One of those ways is learning how to better determine who we can trust, and who we should keep a close eye on.
I wish there was a test that worked kind of like a lie detector machine where you could get a better feel for who is trustworthy and who isn’t. But there are a few clues we can look for when we are trying to determine if someone is trustworthy or not. Let’s investigate five of them.
1. Look for consistency in people’s words and their actions. If what they actually do aligns with what they say they are going to do, they are more likely to be trustworthy.
“False weights and unequal measures— the Lord detests double standards of every kind. Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right.” Proverbs 20:10-11 NLT
We demand honesty in advertising from corporations, so why not from people? Don’t take everything at face value - investigate!
2. Pay attention to their past behavior. If someone has already established a history of being trustworthy, it is more likely that they will continue to be trustworthy in the future. Of course, God can renew anyone who is truly surrendered to Him. But we need to see the presence of a renewed spirit in practice.
Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue [giving lip service to compassion], but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words]. 1 John 3:18 AMP
Practical acts of love, repeated over time, are an excellent clue that someone is or has become trustworthy.
3. Evaluate more than just a person’s words. Check out their body language and pay attention to their stress levels (like a human trustworthiness detector!). Most importantly, listen to The Holy Spirit. He helps us sense when someone is not being trustworthy.
“But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16:13 NIV
People who are anxious or tense, like most of us become if we are stretching the truth a little (or a lot), tend to try to cope with that anxiety in non-verbal ways. If someone is habitually touching their face, scratching their arms, shuffling from foot to foot, or messing with their jewelry - we have to ask ourselves why and be all the more alert.
4. Seek advice and ask for references. Be sure to ask someone who has experience with the person or knowledge of the situation. Do the people that know them trust them?
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22 ESV
Check in with wise friends - the kind who aren’t afraid to tell you things you might not want to hear. They are the best counselors of all.
5. Don’t ignore red flags. You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all done it.
A prudent and far-sighted person sees the evil [of sin] and hides himself [from it], But the naive continue on and are punished [by suffering the consequences of sin]. Proverbs 22:3 AMP
Red fags mean certain things to meteorologists than they do soldiers in battle. I want us to remember what they mean in auto racing - that conditions are such that it is too dangerous to keep going. Don’t suffer unnecessary consequences by ignoring them.
I’m not trying to make us all paranoid. I just want us all to have a healthy level of skepticism about a person before we decide that they are trustworthy. Trusting your gut. I believe that those little checks we feel now and again are the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
So don’t shy away from true crime stories! We can learn so much from them because they make us aware of things that we maybe didn’t know existed. And that awareness is what helps us keep ourselves, the people we love, and our communities a little bit safer.
Looking for more wonderful stories? Or just looking for more ways to get into the action yourself? Check out my resources page for more information.
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